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It’s “Back to School” for Catholic Schools

To Teach as Jesus Did:

Catholic Education in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee

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“It’s “Back to School” for Catholic Schools”

Perhaps no other time of year evokes the mixed emotions that “back to school” does for all segments of our society.  Come July 4th—or even earlier, it seems, each year—teachers, parents, administrators, and students begin to experience competing feelings of anticipation and anxiety, eagerness and dread, and the conflicting desires to “get ready” for what’s ahead and also to withdraw back into summer. 

What’s so special about our Catholic schools?  What drives us to look forward eagerly to a new year within them, despite the temptation to linger over summer?  Simply put, it’s the culture of the Catholic school community, no matter where the school is located or what population is served.

Recently I asked my grandniece, who attends one of our Catholic schools, whether she’s eager to be a fifth-grader this year, which also means being a “big buddy” and a school basketball player for the first time.  She shrugged her shoulders and answered, “Kind of, but it means my time at the school is coming to a close in four more years, and that makes me a little sad.”  I was touched by this, because it told me that, in her own fifth-grade way, she’s filled with love for what she’s experiencing in the culture of that school and doesn’t want to let it go.

There’s no doubt that our Catholic schools are characterized by strong academic achievements, students’ safety, and positive discipline.  Students know what’s expected of them, and they do it.  But most importantly and remarkably, Catholic schools exude a Catholic ethos and culture.  In them, at every level, the Church’s sacramental life is faithfully taught and richly experienced.  Prayer permeates all aspects of curricular and co-curricular activities, and timeless Church traditions, especially the liturgical seasons and the lives of the saints, are ritualized and remembered.  Visible evidence of faith fills the Catholic school environment and makes everything, in its own way, a blessing. 

The Catholic school teachers, administrators, and staff members who have accepted the call, the privilege, and the challenge to serve in the elementary schools and high schools of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee are sustaining the mission of 175 years of Catholic education in the United States and in our Archdiocese.  For much of the past, thousands of religious sisters, brothers, and priests sought to build the foundation of the Catholic Church in our country on the solid foundation of Catholic schools. 

Today, the responsibility for strengthening and sustaining the teaching mission of the Church through Catholic schooling has been passed on to other capable hands and generous hearts:  the hands and hearts of those—mostly laity—who believe in that mission and dedicate themselves to its fulfillment.  In the words of Pope John Paul II, they are “great gifts to the Church,” men and women of faith who understand their present mission and who are doing much to shape a “peaceful, just, and hope-filled world for the future.”

As this new school year begins, therefore, we give thanks:

  • For the 31,000 students in our 92 Catholic elementary schools and 15 Catholic high schools who have come from a broad diversity of backgrounds, with an equally wide range of abilities and capacities for intellectual, spiritual, and emotional growth.
  • For the leaders of our Catholic schools—principals, presidents, and pastors—who, through their professionalism, imagination, and courage, are committed to integrating faith-based values into every aspect of school life.
  • For the 2500 teachers and staff members in our schools who are passionate about their vocation as Catholic school educators and who transform their learning places daily with their faith, energy, and attention to the needs of every student.
  • For parents who entrust their precious children into our care, understanding and appreciating that we, as Catholic educators, are their partners in preparing them to become successful, lifelong learners and forming them in the way of holiness.
  • For pastors, parish leaders, and parishioners who believe deeply in the value of Catholic education and make significant sacrifices to ensure that this treasure of the Church will be sustainable into the future.
  • For our colleagues at Alverno College, Cardinal Stritch University, Marian University, and Mount Mary University, who, through the contribution of their time, expertise, and other resources, provide invaluable guidance and support for K-16 Catholic education in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.
  • For our many friends, partners, and donors who strengthen Catholic education through their advice, encouragement, and countless other forms of support.
  • For a vision for Catholic education in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee that includes new models for schools to ensure their long-term accessibility, affordability, and viability.
  • For our call to be Catholic educators and participate in the teaching mission of the Church by instructing students in the faith and cultivating Catholic school communities that overflow with prayer, service, and love for one another.

A happy, blessed, and fulfilling new school year to all!

Kathleen A. Cepelka, Ph.D.
Superintendent of Catholic Schools

Feedback on this blog

"Back to School for Catholic Schools "
vincent A amendola

This article on "Back to School for Catholic Schools"...written by Dr. Cepelka...takes me back to when Dr. Cepelka taught me at Sacred Heart Elementary School in Yonkers, NY...she was my 8th grade English teacher who taught by word and example...

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